Technology, Philosophy, & Sometimes Both

Thoughts on the World by Jack Umano

Archive for February 2011

We Know Nothing (or at least can’t prove anything)

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What do we really know?

As a confessed Myers-Briggs prototypical INTJ, I admit that I believe my own views on everything.  But I’ve pondered, “what do we really know”?  What can we prove?

So many people think they know the right answer on political debates, religious debates…world issues.  Where do people get these unshakable opinions?  We get them from the TV, the radio, the pastor, the politician, the relatives and friends.  Are these sources trustworthy?  As John Mayer sang,

when you trust your television, what you get is what you got

when they own the information, they can bend it all they want.

Radio programs bill themselves as “provocative”.  They are advertising to you that they are just trying  to provoke responses.  It’s how they make money.  They intentionally present the most inflammatory opinions to make you outraged.  But some people believe and adopt those opinions.  The pastor should be the most trustworthy informant.  But who is without agenda?  The pastor is just a human who has learned his opinions from those who’ve taught him – just like you.

Twenty or thirty generations ago (not really that long), an intelligent person might have “known” that the king was divinely given his power and  that the world was flat.  He didn’t learn any of this from experience.  He was told this and accepted it.  Today, I watch the movie: The Truman Show in which Mr. Truman finds out that the reality he has known has been an artificial world.  It is mused that Mr. Truman didn’t realize it for so long because, “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.”  There is a similar idea in the movie The Matrix, also.

So what do we really know?  I believe that the world is round, but I can’t prove it.  I simply have been told it.  I believe the politician that I support sincerely wants to make the world better.  But, I’ve never met him.  I don’t think he has some hidden agenda.  But, his opposition would tell me he’s incredibly misguided or even evil.  I can tell you that I believe I was born of a woman I’ve called “mom” for as long as I remember.  But I can’t prove it.  I’m reminded of the Replicants in the movie Blade Runner.  The latest version of these robots didn’t know that their memories were implanted.

Certainly, we all have to dismiss the idea that we are in “The Matrix” or are Replicants with memory implants, just for our own sanity.  But, what can we prove?  Do you accept the “reality that you have been presented” regarding your religion -even though half the population around the world would say you are believing a silly story?  Do you believe that your political opponents are all seriously misguided -when they would say the same about you?

I guess, in the end, we all simply do our best to make sense of the chaos of information.  I value your opinion.  But think twice before you say you’re sure you are right.


Written by Jack Umano

February 19, 2011 at 5:42 am

Posted in Philosophy

ITunes “Just Doesn’t Work”

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I use lots of different software programs all day long.  At any time, I’m probably using at least 6 programs.  And during the course of a day, I probably use 8 or 10.  Without a doubt, the program that fails the most often is iTunes.  So, it floors me that Apple is successful with it’s marketing campaign that “It just works.”

I’m not even doing anything weird with it.  I have no jail-broken iPhones or anything like that.

So, to all you people who get frustrated with your Windows machine, think twice before you buy into the idea that Macintosh products work without hassle.  If anything, the assumption that it all works well makes it more difficult to find solutions when there is a problem.

Written by Jack Umano

February 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Technology

The Goal of an Altruistic Group is Obsolescence

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When an altruistic group is formed, it’s goal should be to make itself unnecessary.  Even though it might never get there.

This follows logically from “Give a man a fish and you feed him for day, Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The goal of a homeless advocacy group is not to provide clothes or food for the homeless (although those could be side projects).  The goal is to reduce homelessness.  The group would rejoice in the news that there were fewer homeless people and the advocacy group should welcome the opportunity to shrink.

The NAACP could celebrate when a school removes admission quotas requiring racial diversity.  That is, if that school has achieved racial diversity in recent years and finds that they no longer need the requirement.  The NAACP would have accomplished their goal in that area and should be happy to be removed from the equation.

Most groups will not start with a mission would involve making themselves unnecessary.  And in the long run, they will fall victim to Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, which claims that an organization will eventually be controlled by people who are interested in forwarding the organization rather than people who are interested in the goals of the organization.

It may be that they only way to create a truly altruistic group is to only have volunteers. Then the shrinking of the staff would be a welcome rest from the work.  An unpaid staff could funnel donated money to contractors as long as those contractors are not too dependent on the income from that job.

Written by Jack Umano

February 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Philosophy